Friday, 26 September 2008

Postmodernism, scepticism, relativism

Caputo notes that Lyotard put the word postmodern on the map when in 1977 he defined it in The Postmodern Condition as 'incredulity to meta-narratives.'
The French phrase Lyotard used that got translated as 'meta-narratives' was grands recits, 'big stories,' that is, large overarching accounts, 'totalizing stories' (he was thinking of Hegel) that claimed things like 'history is nothing but the unfolding of the absolute spirit,' or 'nothing but the unfolding of the laws of dialectical materialism,' or nothing but the displaced desire for your mommy, or nothing but the resentment of the weak against the strong, or nothing but this, that, or the other thing. (Caputo, Philosophy and Theology 49)
So the debunking even of Marx, Freud and Nietzsche, the masters of suspicion!
Caputo goes on:
Postmodernism thus is not relativism or scepticism, as its uncomprehending critics almost daily charge, but minutely close attention to detail, a sense for the complexity and multiplicity of things, for close readings, for detailed histories, for sensitivity to differences. The postmodernists think the devil is in the details, but they also have reason to think that none of this will antagonize God. For are not the modernists rather like the Shemites, furiously at work on the tower of Babel, on the 'system,' as Kierkegaard would say with biting irony, and are not the postmodernists following the lead of God, who in deconstructing the tower clearly favors a multiplicity of languages, frameworks, paradigms, perspective, angles? (Ibid. 50.)
Whatever the opinion of other postmoderns, Caputo for one seems to allow place for God and in that sense God's point of view. It would be interesting to compare this with the way Lonergan brings together classical and statistical intelligibility in God in chapter 20 of Insight - his transposition of Aquinas' synthesis of the biblical and the Aristotelian worldview.

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